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Mahmoud Abbas may well be shooting himself in the foot, but where is Fatah?

July 10, 2018 at 10:02 am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on 11 April 2018 [Issam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

It is no secret that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is experiencing an unprecedented political crisis, in light of the measures that the Trump administration is taking to impose a “peace” deal tailored to the Israeli occupation. These include the approach adopted by the US President’s son-in-law and Middle East envoy, Jared Kushner, to impose a deal as long as the Arab states approve it, with or without the support of the Palestinians. This leaves Abbas with no room to manoeuvre and stands him alone against the US deal.

Abbas and the Palestinian Authority took good positions in terms of dealing with Trump by rejecting the “deal of the century” and any separation of Gaza from the rest of Palestine. The PA head also refused to accept Washington’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem. When Trump went ahead with that in any case, the PA responded by cutting all contacts with the Americans, and stressed that the administration is no longer a sincere broker for peace in the Middle East.

When we talk about Abbas adopting good positions, this does not mean that they are the best possible in response to the Zionist and US arrogance; they are, in fact, the bare minimum to be expected. This takes into account the PA’s bad experiences with making concessions since the disastrous Oslo agreement of 1993. They are relatively good and progressive positions, but certainly not a complete fulfilment of what the Palestinians desire or are entitled to.

‘Deal of the century’ or flop of the century? Trump’s Middle East policy

It appears from Abbas’s decisions and speeches during the past few months that he is aware of the American attempts to put pressure on him, isolate him and shuffle his successor into place in the event that he continues to reject what Washington dictates. Abbas may also realise that the absence of a ready and consensual successor is, so far, what is preventing a repeat of what we might call the Yasser Arafat scenario with him in the central role.

Despite the clarity of the Israeli and American approach to Abbas and his team, he has not yet realised that the solution lies in resorting to the Palestinian people and reconciling with other factions based on national constants, as well as agreeing on a liberation strategy with all sections of the community.

Indeed, Abbas has not only failed to take serious action towards unity and the building of a national liberation project, but he has also turned his back on the Gaza Strip under the pretext of forcing Hamas to accept reconciliation on his terms. He has also approved collective punishments for the Palestinians in Gaza by blocking all budget allocations for its public services, hindering a solution to the electricity crisis, and manipulating the livelihood of the people by cutting PA salaries. Such is the nature of these punitive measures that the West Bank and a number of Palestinian refugee camps in neighbouring countries have witnessed demonstrations against the PA and its sanctions, rather than demonstrations against Israel and the occupation.

The streets among a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon [Professor Kamel Hawwash]

The PA, US spokespersons and Abbas himself say that by imposing the “deal of the century”, America aims to separate Gaza from the West Bank, which not only goes against natural justice but also the terms of the Oslo Accords. They also say that some of the European and regional projects providing economic support for Gaza aim to establish a political entity therein entirely separate from the “Palestinian state”. The truth of the matter is that what the PA is saying in this regard is mostly true, but it is strange that instead of responding with national policies that stand in the face of these deals and “conspiracies”, Abbas and the PA are helping them and making their task easier.

Thwarting the ‘deal of the century’ is possible

How can the PA convince the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to stand up to the “economic peace” projects offered by Europe and the Arabs, while it suffocates Gaza and contributes to the Israeli-led blockade? How can Abbas help Hamas to avoid any agreement on such “deals” simply to solve the crippling economic crisis that is killing Gaza, while he himself is contributing directly or indirectly to this crisis, under the pretext of protecting unity and “reclaiming” the enclave?


The real solution is to prevent the success of any unjust deal, and stop any projects that, as the PA rightly says, are trying to separate the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and Jerusalem. There must be an immediate return to Palestinian unity and a move away from the unsuccessful reconciliation negotiations that have lasted 10 years. Such negotiations have failed because they focused on quotas and pushed the lie of “the PA’s unity” in an occupied country that has no true authority or sovereignty; its president can’t even travel outside the vicinity of his “country” without permission from the Israeli occupation authorities.

The success or failure of the Gaza Strip disengagement projects is the responsibility of all of the effective Palestinian forces, not just Mahmoud Abbas, and Hamas certainly must carry some of the burden. However, it is Abbas who is the main person in this respect because he is helping the occupation, Washington and other regional players to implement their plans by his sanctions on the Gaza Strip.

Thus, the PA President appears to be shooting himself in the foot by helping his enemies to achieve their nefarious aims which actually harm his own objectives and those of the Palestinian people. This raises an important question: Where does Fatah stand while all of this is happening? How can the movement — or whatever is left of it — allow its leader to contribute, consciously or not, to the success of the regional and international plans that target Palestine and all its actors, including the Palestinian Authority and the opposition?

Abbas is tool for ‘Deal of the Century,’ says ex-official

This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 9 July 2018

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.